Monday, April 02, 2007

Best of ACRL in Baltimore

The best presentations had little to do with libraries, but the two keynote speakers I had the privilege to hear were outstanding. Michael Eric Dyson, a scholar who has written on the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the Black community, has refuted Bill Cosby, analyzed rap, and more, just about rapped his whole speech. I was amazed and wondered what David Isaacson would have made of him. His sense of the language was incredible, he covered many relevant topics to librarians and he explained the linguistic complexity of Ebonics. This was entertaining and informational all at once.

John Waters, director of movies like Hairspray and Polyester, though I only have seen his Pink Flamingos, was entertaining and edgy. Most would think this was too outlandish for librarians, but he knew he was talking to one of the most liberal minded groups ever – at least in the sense that we fight hard to protect everyone’s freedom of speech. Waters has definitely been one of those to test the limits. He suggested some ways librarians could increase the interest in libraries – by disrobing (no one would believe it happened), padding crotches, translating books into Ebonics, if kids are on drugs – act like we are on drugs. I found myself laughing a lot, though not everyone at my table was laughing, so even among librarians, this was a bit edgy. I found his talk refreshing, like refreshing your palette between courses, this refreshed my mind between serious conference presentations.

Before I get to the nitty-gritty, I have to say the session that excited me the most personally and has gotten me dreaming pipe dreams, was a session on information literacy in the Arab countries. I went to see if I could glean some ideas for our international students, but instead, I am ready to take off and work in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. One of the presenters was Carol Hansen, my mentor at the Immersion program a few years back, who was just getting ready to go to UAE. She presented with a colleague from Zayed University in UAE, and another colleague from the American University in Cairo. After the session a man from a Midwest college was talking about being asked to set up a library in UAE for an engineering college being set up by his school. These places are looking for librarians, and Dubai sounded like a very interesting place to go. Wonder if I could talk my son into going?r (I think they usually ask for a 3 year contract, so it might be after he’s done with high school.)

Otherwise the most exciting session was from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on the things they have done to appeal to the millennials. Whenever I have heard Lisa Hinchcliffe speak, she has impressed me, and this was no exception. Their undergrad library is full to capacity and beyond, starting from the second half of the semester. Their circulation statistics have gone up tremendously. What are they doing?

  • Learning Commons – with coordinator
  • Combined four service desks – circulation, reference, media booking, and ??? (have to check)
  • Gaming nights
  • Purchased games and game consoles (Playstations, X-boxes)
    • 75% of the games are out at any one time
    • Have chosen to get a few less books
  • Check out laptops, MP3 players and more
  • Videos and DVDs out of closed stacks -open circulation
  • Priority to digital formats – who uses print reference sources willingly?
  • Quiet study areas are in other libraries, but students have self designated the lower level as quiet

These are all good ideas, but the thing that amazed me the most, was that from idea to implementation takes about 2 to 3 weeks for them. They are not afraid to try things, change policies, and if they don’t work, they go back, and move on. The only real example of things not working was that when they combined the service desks, they thought they didn’t need a real chain of command, and that responsibilities would work out for themselves and they didn’t.

There were many, many good ideas presented in panels, papers, poster sessions, exhibits, and just in talking with people. The rest I will try to organize into categories.

Web 2.0/ MySpace/ FaceBook/ Second Life

  • Create a library search box that students can put on MySpace or Web CT
  • Use FaceBook to offer lib help to specific classes
  • Use student blogs to advertise what student life is like at WMU
    • Librarians can search and respond to any research issues
  • Get involved with Second Life – even if it isn’t used for traditional reference yet, we need to know how to maneuver in it


  • Trends: shorter, modular, point of need, more interactivity, assessment component, gaming elements
  • Use multimedia creation software, team approach, oustource parts, get grant support
  • Trends in use – course requirement, links from course mgmt systems, distance learning, marketing to select groups, point of need “push” marketing


  • Side by side reference, sometimes with 2 computers, so students can do with you
  • Reference blog – a special blog to keep track of reference questions – keeps statistics, lets you see how students and your colleagues are answering questions, lets you add ideas, makes it easier for repeat questions (open source)

Information Literacy Assessment

  • South Dakota continues to refine their Info Lit Exam and we could still be beta testers
  • James Madison seems to be another one to check out
  • SAILS – seems ready for prime time according to a poster session

Subject Guides

  • Portland State has created Topic Watch guides for business & film studies
    • Composed of RSS feeds (news blogs), podcasts, webinars, federated search, some programmable websites, new book lists


  • Get involved with Study Abroad programs – help prepare students


  • Creative commons – new term I learned for open publication license